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Interobserver Variability in the Histopathologic Assessment of Extrathyroidal Extension of Well Differentiated Thyroid Carcinoma Supports the New American Joint Committee on Cancer Eighth Edition Criteria for Tumor Staging

Andrew T Turk, Sylvia L Asa, Zubair W Baloch, William C Faquin, Giovanni Fellegara, Ronald A Ghossein, Thomas J Giordano, Virginia A LiVolsi, Ricardo Lloyd, Ozgur Mete, Juan Rosai, Saul Suster, Lester D R Thompson, Bruce M Wenig
Thyroid: Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association 2019, 29 (5): 619-624
Background: Extrathyroidal extension (ETE) by papillary and follicular thyroid carcinoma can be associated with increased risk of tumor recurrence and mortality. In the seventh edition of its Cancer Staging Manual, the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) defined minimal ETE as the involvement of skeletal muscle (i.e., strap muscles) or perithyroidal soft tissue. The eighth edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual has changed the criteria so that only grossly evident (macroscopic) ETE involving strap muscles (not microscopic ETE involving perithyroidal soft tissue) affects tumor staging. Summary: Concordance of identifying microscopic ETE (as well as extranodal extension by carcinoma metastatic to lymph nodes) was previously evaluated among 11 expert endocrine pathologists. The overall agreement rate was slight when rendering a diagnosis of ETE. Concordance was highest when pathologists assessed the spatial relationship of carcinoma to skeletal muscle. This article discusses the significance of these findings. It also reviews relevant anatomic and developmental considerations related to the boundaries of the thyroid. Conclusions: The results of the concordance study provide additional rationale supporting stringent criteria for diagnosing ETE, as proposed by the eighth edition of the AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. It is expected that these rigid morphologic criteria will potentially reduce interobserver variability and enhance consistency in the diagnosis and staging of thyroid carcinoma.


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